“If Only One”…

After many hundreds, perhaps concerts in the thousands over a 43 year span I finally reached the top.

At least for one set, one day in one place I gave my best for one person.

Some reading this will be thinking about a phrase “for an audience of One” meaning God. I love, agree and do that but that’s not what I mean in this instance.

It happened that one twenty-three year old man with two children was the only person who chose to come for an appx. 90 minute service at a max security prison in Ohio.

I didn’t ask what his conviction was for, but it would have been pretty bad. He is serving 20 years to life.

Please- not for brag, but perspective on my thinking: I have had nearly 35,000 people singing my own lyrics back at me at a festival in Europe (good thing as I’d forgotten the words at that moment in that particular song!). He sort of mumbled a bit on some of the words of a few songs, and I also did some he didn’t know as well as a number of solo tunes for him to listen to.

I shared scripture, bits of my own testimony, asked a few questions, we had several prayers, some with the volunteer chaplain who brought me into several Ohio prisons to minister over the past couple years, a couple with the head chaplain in that facility.

But in the end, it was for an audience of one.
Cell

In some of these situations, the lock-up is very tight with a max of six inmates per session, sometimes several sessions, perhaps an hour or a little more for each.

Even those who have permission to attend is often very limited due to several sets of criteria. We drove quite a few miles there and back.

When we got word that in this visit we’d only see one person and had the option to leave, I found myself saying “Jesus tells us the good shepherd leaves the 99 who are not in need to go find the one who is lost. Jesus shed the same amount of blood for each person”. And that was that.

I’ve said it for years- we say “if only one comes” but of course that’s poor stewardship of time, money, effort, human resources, etc.. I get that there is some truth in such a view. I also get love and a clear calling and sacrifice for one individual is sometimes EXACTLY what God is calling us to.

It was a privilege and pleasure to use that time in that way on that day. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Every person is someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, grandfather, or future spouse, grandmother, etc.. All have sinned and fallen short.

None of us can be, nor play “God” but sometimes we might either want to, or fully distance ourselves from “the least of these”, the nastiest, most difficult, meanest of these. I understand. There is a time for every purpose and sometimes distance is exactly what God leads.

Nobody can “fix” anyone. In fact we cannot even “fix” ourselves. This is where faith, surrender and following the risen Savior to the best of our understanding and ability in accord with His Word (the Bible) is really the bottom line.

But in terms of ministry, mission, calling, it’s also not everyone’s job. There is no call from God to do everything for everyone all the time! We sometimes put that on ourselves and wrongly or perhaps rightly think this or that church or others in the church are putting it on us. Not true.

Regardless of all this we are commanded to love and even then we love poorly, imperfectly at best.

Some of us are called to love very difficult people in very difficult circumstances. While there is a time and place to move away from them, there are times God may call you or me to stay put and do what we are able to serve and hopefully reflect the Lord to them. Spouse, other family member, co-workers in a job situation, mission field, on and on, these are currents one must navigate in life.

Love is so much easier when it doesn’t hurt… especially hurt us! Think about Jesus on the cross. Is that not love in action? Is that not the most intense sense of love for unlovely, “unlovable” people? “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through Him”. Mercy. Yes, MERCY!

Mercy costs.

Again, it isn’t every other person’s calling to spend time, money, effort and sacrifice to share Christ with one person, but it sure enough is His calling for many of us in various times and situations.

I was blessed a great deal on Thursday. I can’t remember another gig with literally only one person in the audience! But it was precisely where I am convinced the Lord wanted me that day.

Thank God He’s more than math major, that stewardship is so much more than number-crunching, entertaining, personal “success” or an “impress-somebody” scheme!

Love is about bringing the best one can, the truth of the Gospel lived out and shared in the moment, even if there is “only one”.

My audience may have heard or not, loved me or what I brought or not, walked with Jesus or walked away hard and empty without Him. No certainty of any of this (regardless of seemingly obvious signs on the day) until eternity.

It’s not even about what we can hear, see, think we can “discern” as to fruit. God only knows for sure what He’s doing in each situation.

Jesus spoke about “fruit that remains” in John 15. Only the Lord knows what fruit will endure over time.

What I can say in faith with gratitude is that He was present and I was blessed to show up before a man in a very small (say, old phone-booth sized) cell, handcuffed, alone, in need of Him.

Aren’t we all in need of Him?

I was the “one” once.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

What are you THINKING?

I realize that in our shifting, mobile times there has been a sea-change in people being committed to one another, to this or that band, organization, church, bike club, day-job, hobby, whatever.

Between dreams we try to fulfill, economic or illness issues, human-relationship breakdowns/breakups or just a desire for something fresh, new, perhaps exciting (at least in the dream-stage) all brings a sense of life to each of us. I’m certainly no different.

Romance, honeymoon, nice! Marriage… that calls for long-term relationships of love and trust and sacrifice.

Some folks negotiate (and that’s really likely the best term) change easier and with more grace than others. But change happens and there are times you literally cannot do a thing to prevent it, nor to hurry through the process.

So many people I meet, in tour after tour, regardless of circumstance, struggle with changes. Nobody ever struggles without first thinking.

It may begin with an event or two, emotions, a close friend or family member, illness (or a diagnosis), death. It may come as a job lay-off or somebody totals your car, any number of things can happen in our life span.

“Peace Like a River”? “The fruit of the Spirit is… peace”? The “Prince of Peace” IMMEDIATELY solves the drama? In my life I’ve never found any sort of “automated” delivery system with regard to navigation throughout the journey. So what happens in our thoughts?

We begin to process, to think, to “suss out” how to move through the current. It’s not mere instinct as in the animal kingdom.

And do know, this is not only re. negative but also quite positive events, possibilities, dreams and creativity.

I am a creative person and come up with LOADS of creative ideas. Some are worthless, some worthwhile, some I act on, some I simply pray about and share and at times am a catalyst for others to try this or that artistic or other idea.

One can become obsessed with a dream. Wrapped up in an idea to the extent nothing else matters. Passion/enthusiasm is one thing, how to move along the road of everyday life is another. So part of what I’m getting at is a “GOT TO ACCOMPLISH THIS” that can not only start a great fire but also burn the creative person out. James 4.13-15 also comes to mind.

So… how to navigate? Time for “Selah” (Book of Psalms)… stop, pause, think about it.

What I have learned (am continually learning) to do about my rather active mind can be found in several places:

Isaiah 26.3 -You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Romans 8.6 -to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

2 Corinthians 10.5 -take every thought captive to obey Christ

Philippians 4.6-8 -Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

1 Corinthians 2.16 โ€œFor who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?โ€ But we have the mind of Christ.

This last verse can sound rather arrogant of apostle Paul who wrote it in what may strike us as an almost glib, matter-of-fact way to Christians in Corinth.

My own thoughts on this verse?

Contextually in this chapter Paul offers a number of deep comments regarding God the Holy Spirit (“the Counselor”) interacting with Christ followers. So what does the Spirit tell us in everyday, practical terms?ThinkerImage

In having the mind of Christ:

-We KNOW the Messiah in a personal way

-We’ve GOT the Word of God (in Paul’s time, the Old Testament scriptures)

-We have HEARD the witness of Jesus’ disciples who saw, walked with Jesus pre-crucifixion, interacted, talked, ate with and saw the physically resurrected Christ

-We have a good sense of what He thought/thinks via His quoted words, including how we must think and act according to the disciples’ teaching (In our day, the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament) and more in that He dwells IN us giving counsel, bringing to our mind whatever Christ has commanded us

This of course, boils down to:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself”.

I believe such is “the mind of Christ”.

In this I find my peace, rest, clarity for how to think, live and walk out my faith daily. Regardless.

How about you?!

Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn

GK in Peoria

Solo Blues Sat. Aug. 23, 6pm

(bring a chair, outdoor show)

Sun. Service Aug. 24, 10am

Peoria Outreach Ministries and

The Oaks Family Church

1001 W. Loucks Ave.

Peoria, IL

Gardens n’ Cheese!

imag1290-scaled-1000“and Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters don’t fail.” Isa. 58.11

Interesting that a God-called fast and prayer (self-denial and suffering) produces the richest, enduring fruit. Care for people and not merely for gain being lived-out is the context of worship and true spirituality in this chapter and the sort of fast Isaiah is calling for.

A. W. Tozer wrote “Miracles follow the plow”.

This morning I’m thinking of our amazing garden as well as a certain Scandinavian cheese! Yep ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots of touring travels have taken us to Norway. One visit included a week of Wendi and I teaching at a YWAM base there out in what proved to be a strikingly beautiful countryside.

The weather was warm, sunny, right mix of cloud and as we had free time each day we took long walks. That time of year the grain, veggies and fruit were bursting out everywhere you looked.

What we didn’t see? The seasonal changes and year-long hard, patient work of all the farmers in that region by which God “gave the increase”.

Not everyone loves the dark, rich, almost peanut-butter flavor of the brown cheese made of goat’s milk, sometimes a mix of goat and cow’s milk… but I love the stuff! You can get it in other parts of the world, even here in the U.S., but it’s easily found in Norway.BrownCheese

We have a long friendship with someone who knows, has raised, cared for and loved goats. She makes amazing things including goat-milk soap. The care and effort she has put into what she produces goes unseen but every so often I think of it as I thankfully use her fabulous soap.

Back to the garden.

This morning another friend spoke of his love for gardening (which he really likes and is good at). He smiled and said “But you know about that” as we agreed that I truly love the food and flowers a well-watered garden produces.

I then added “I love gardens, not always the work”!

Flowers, cheese (hey, I’m originally from Wisconsin), it’s all good. But sometimes the labor is intensive, the weather doesn’t “cooperate”, the goats make life miserable and maybe your crops or cheese won’t sell!

Why put all your effort into X, Y or Z if there’s nothing of value?

Exactly.

God calls each of us to pay attention to the blessings, gifts, servanthood and life that reflect more of Jesus and less of our own petty kingdom. HOW we go about this seems clearly a concern of His, perhaps even more than what we produce.

A self-centered, addicted farmer or gardener (yes, there are some) may well produce all sorts of good stuff but inwardly be a train-wreck, relationally bankrupt and wondering what life is for, about and whether living it out is even worth the pain.

IF and as God is truly our God, and the genuine love of God for people is what moves us to work, our lives and work will produce (spiritually speaking) “gold, silver or precious stones”. If the reverse is true, in the end it’s “wood, hay or stubble” according to Paul in the New Testament.

God, in the end, judges and will indeed judge every one of us according to our work (see Revelation chapter 20.11-15 for details).

If you ever believe the pain of the plow is showing up in your life (it does and will if you serve the true God) know also that His plan is best, His work is eternal and everything else is something less and something that will come to an end. He has no beginning nor ending. We, on this earth of course, have both.

He never does anything without His very nature (“God is love”) at heart and in view of reaching into your or my life. I say that by faith as well as (sometimes painful) experience.

One of several problems in all this is that Matthew 25 tells us He will one day separate the sheep from the goats. Sheep follow Him. Goats? Nada.

Allow me to flip the analogy just once more- God put the first couple in a garden and called them to tend it also placing boundaries on what they should do and not do.

Jesus suffered in a garden and after crucifixion was (short-term:) buried in a garden. He rose in that garden.

God will eventually bring us to an eternal garden if we are part of His family in love, faith and obedience.

THAT will begin an eternity of beauty, rejoicing and love like we can only imagine, only catch a faint glimpse of in this fallen world no matter the intensity of brilliant beauty and amazing flavors we now experience!

At least one Bible puts the heading “Eden Restored” above the following words in Revelation 22:

1 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Relationship 101 and 102

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My Wendi and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary this past June. Much love, deep grace!

I and several friends attended a good friend’s wedding today. It was truly a kind, gracious celebration of love.

From the preparations (from Peter pan flags to flowers, cool fans, colors and even groomsmen’s clothing), the location (outdoor conservation area w. flowers, old oaks, shade), weather (amazingly cool for August, light breeze, partly sunny) and the obvious love of bride, groom, families and friends, it was very, very special.

My wife and I have known the bride’s parents for many years- true love and sacrifice, kindness and care is evident.

Their daughter is special indeed, and having raised several myself I can relate ๐Ÿ™‚
I had not met the presiding pastor before but he seems a good and solid man who loves the Lord and his wife.

What I often think of as a lyricist and songwriter is a juxtaposition of “this and that”. Put another way, one view vs. another, or perhaps “the other”. Contrasts. There are plenty of contrasts in life.

While I found myself taking a lot of pictures for my wife and daughters to see as they could not attend, I also realized I smiled a lot… a whole lot, during the event.

So there are plenty such events in life, right?

Yes. And then there were other thoughts.

And I hear you thinking, perhaps: “Oh oh. Here comes his negative vibe”! Well yes, because we live in a real world that includes the whole gamut of emotions.

In most events of this sort there are single folks, some likely wondering if marriage will ever be a gift they are going to get to unwrap.

There are likely single parents.

There may be several cane, a wheelchair, a walker. Older folks, people with illness and/or disabilities.

Some may seem to rarely smile but most will smile at least a bit as they see a sweet couple pledging to share their life with one another.

On the way home I found myself praying for my friends’ marriage to be sweet, strong, enduring.

We know that divorce is now very typical due to all sorts of pressures, selfish issues, illnesses and etc.. Plenty of people simply choose to live together and for any number of reasons pass on any sort of “legal”, “religious” or even civil ceremony.

This is the world we live in. Not set, secure. Unsettled. Full of hope and promise, full of disappointments, often a fearful, angry world.

If it were in their power I’m certain couples like my friends today would construct a relationship that avoided the normal and sometimes abnormal pains of living in a fallen, myopic, sometimes disastrous world.

I cannot recall in my lifetime a period of greater general anger, fear and confusion about what to do with wars, borders, taxes, immigration, the environment, the poor, culture wars and the list goes on.

People find a thousand reasons to quit, even on living.

I prayed and will pray for God’s grace for my friends to recognize, remember and appropriate two things they both already know:

God in His Word says “I will never leave you nor forsake you” regardless of treatment or circumstances. Jesus also commanded “IF (my caps) you love Me you will obey My commandments”.

If -that- relationship is authentic and lived-out regardless of anything or anyone, marriage can be nurturing, rich and enduring. Yes!

Thanks for stopping by ๐Ÿ™‚ -Glenn